High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

Using the principles of light, University of Leeds scientists have discovered a new way to measure the strength of modern forms of concrete -- giving industry a better way to understand when it could fracture.

Their approach was based on applying a complex light-refracting coating, designed to display stress positions, to the surface of concrete beam samples.

The epoxy coating is 'birefringent' -- it has the ability to split light waves in different directions in relation to the amount of stress acting in those directions, and reflecting back to a photonic camera. The camera then takes a picture showing where the stress levels are most extreme before cracks or fractures occur.

While the coating itself is not new, this research project was the first time it had been used to measure shear stress and assess concrete toughness against fractures.

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